Physician Assistant program receives $704,000 grant

Alison Trautmann


Marywood’s physician assistant program was awarded a $704,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The funding will be used to provide scholarship assistance to PA students. Members of the Physician Assistant program from left to right Lori Swanchak, Ph.D, PA-C, Dr. Karen Arscott, Program Director, Linda Hunter, Clinical Instructor, MPAS, PA-C, Lisa Mattei, Clinical Instructor, MPAS, PA-C, Stanley Blondek, MD, FAAP, Medical Director, Marie Bonavoglia, Academic Coordinator, MPAS, PA-C. Photo credit, Morgan Strasser.

The Physician Assistant program at Marywood University has received a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant was given to Marywood in order to expand the Physician’s Assistant program.

The $704,000 grant will enable Marywood to graduate 16 more physician’s assistants throughout the next four years. Dr. Karen Arscott, the program director for the Physician Assistant Program, said that 4 students per year for the next 4 years would receive financial assistance of around $20-21,000 per year for each student in order for them to practice primary care for at least 5 years after graduation.

Primary care is defined as family practice, general internal medicine or pediatrics instead of a specialized field. Physician’s assistants generally graduate with large amounts of loans due to the long hours they spend in the classroom, so they often go straight into specialized care because it pays more money.

Dr. Maria Montoro Edwards, the Assistant Vice President for Research, said that Dr. Arscott identified the grant as perfect for Marywood because the institution was recently approved to accept additional students for the PA program. The program currently has 40 students in its first year, 30 in the second year, and has been approved for 45 in 2010. Dr. Edwards said “It is a good vote of confidence when they say ‘Yes, you can take more students.’ It certainly speaks to the quality of the program.” The grant will most likely not be renewed because the grant was a direct response to theAffordable Care Act and those funds are now closed.

Dr. Arscott said there are healthcare provider and doctor shortages in many areas of Pennsylvania. This shortage is due to the fact that malpractice insurance is very expensive in these areas and Medicare reimbursements are low. The difference between doctors and physician’s assistants is in the length of their education. A doctor needs four years of college as well as four years of medical school and a 3 to 5 year minimum residency in order to gain their medical certification. A physician’s assistant can gain their medical certification 24-36 months after their bachelor’s degree is completed or else take part in Marywood’s 5 year program.

Primary care physicians are needed because they are a “very overworked specialty in medicine and underpaid for the amount of hours they work” said Dr. Arscott. The grant received by Marywood will encourage more students to take up primary care and ease the load on physicians.

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